EDTECH 531: Impressions of Avatars

In the first week of EDTECH 531, we watch a video from a Stanford professor about avatars and how the avatar’s presence and actions can influence student involvement and behavior. One of the points of his presentation was to incorporate the listener’s image into the 2d representation of the speaker. So kids watching me would see a speaker who looks like a blend of them and me. The research seems to indicate students are more attentive when the person speaking to them looks like them. This topic broadened out another way is very close to one of my personal challenges. I did not go into teaching to teach kids who look like me. No matter how I say it, it will sound racist so I’ve pretty much given up on being over-polite and just want to say things as I see them. If I could change my exterior so that I look like my kids, would more of them have been successful?  According to the little bit of research and reading I’ve done, one reason black males don’t take my advanced classes is because they don’t like the interaction with white women and will avoid it if they can. That, however, is not the point of this post.

In our post, we are supposed to address:

  •  Your impression of the statistics (7:30) about the use of avatars.
  • Your thoughts of how tools like Avatar Kinect creates a “Transformed Social Interaction.”
  • Do you see an educatuion value for avatar mimicry?
  • Thoughts on the pursuasive power of simitiry (voting behavior) in tracking.

The statistics say overwhelmingly that kids aged 6 – 16 spend a large number of hours engaged with computer-like equipment. I agree with the stats based on the few days I spent with my nephews who are ages 13 and 7, in June. They made fun of me because I did not have a Smart phone. They made fun of me for any ignorance I had about electronic devices. Little do they know that I’ve done the summer camp of 3DGameLab where I made apps, that I sat in on Dr. Wolber’s class at USF to learn from the person who created the text on App Inventor, or that I’ve taken courses on how to use Articulate’s Storyline so that I can create interactive tutorials. I even had the MET at that point and my brother made a point to make fun of me because I supposedly had a Master’s degree in technology, yet I did not have a Smart phone. I just have to say that  I have one now, and I do love what I can do with it. In the recent past, I did not have a Smart phone because I was unemployed and did not see the usefulness of paying an additional $40 or $50 a month just to have a Smart phone that required a data plan. Verizon changed their policies, so now I can share a data plan with my husband, Pete. Only because it is economically sensible now did I change phones, not because of the peer pressure.

Peer pressure from a 7 yr old and 13 yr old?  Is that possible? I recall being in middle school and having to talk to my best friend every night. I don’t know if that is when my parents put in another phone line in our house, or if it was a year or so later when they ultimately got frustrated with me always being on the phone. Is the continuous use of electronic devices much different? I do not know how many people my nephews interact with when they’re using their device, so I don’t know if there is a social component to what they are doing. I imagine, though, that even if their friends can’t directly see their progress on a game, if they are successful, everybody who needs to hear about it, will.

Avatar Kinect, if I am recalling correctly, is a program that has people interact with each other using full body avatars, not just floating heads. What is unique about Kinect, though, is that the avatar actually looks like you and not a face you want to create to represent you. Like with my picture and username in 3Dgamelab, it is supposed to not automatically indicate my age and gender. Choosing a flower may indicate I’m female, but there may still be some hesitancy with being 100% confident I’m female (until you read my posts). With Avatar Kinect, I would be going away from what I enjoy most about my persona online- people only know about my genetic composition and me what I tell them about me. I actually hope Avatar Kinect is not how virtual teaching is going to be in the future because I still want to teach students who don’t look like me. If I could create an avatar that matches each student’s demographic, it would be amazing. If each student could be learning from someone who looked like them, then Avatar Kinect would make sense. To create a 3D image of me is a waste of time and technology. I don’t want to exclude people because I don’t look like them.

I totally see an education value for avatar mimicry IF the avatar being mimicked is the student, not me. Maybe this is what the video was stressing and I’m being my typical misunderstanding self and not seeing the obvious until someone tells me what I was supposed to get out of the video.

While I realize Web 3.0 is a nickname of the technology that allows Google or Facebook to target me with specific ads, I really don’t want my avatar to show up on billboards to sell me objects. We actually just fought putting up a digital billboard in our city. Imagine if a digital billboard’s images changed every time a car drove by. Yeah, that would not be distracting…. The movie with Tom Cruise, Minority Report I think it is, may very well become a reality. It is with respect to ads that show up online and we just act like it is normal. If ads that change as I walk by becomes the norm, will I still be so opposed to it?



About Melissa

I am a former high school science teacher and recently completed a MET degree at Boise State

Posted on August 25, 2014, in EDTECH 531 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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